September 13, 2015 — Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus’ mission, His purpose, was relatively basic. He came among us, to suffer in our behalf, to die, and to rise again. Although the entire understanding of what the Lord did for each of us may seem complex, it is comparatively simple in many ways. Today’s readings and today’s Gospel explicate this for us.
The Book of Isaiah is one of the most significant of the Old Testament. There is a common theme that runs through the entire Book, and it is the theme of salvation. The major part of Isaiah is something that was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and it predates Jesus by more than 100 years. Isaiah was truly a prophet as he anticipated the Messiah who was to come as well as the salvation the Lord would bring.
Our First Reading on this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which comes to us from Isaiah, speaks to two key aspects of the Messiah to come — obedience and submission. These are two elements to which we, too, are called. Being a Catholic and a Christian entails being obedient to God, and it also requires that we see God as the controlling factor in our lives. We trust Him, and we rely on Him in all aspects of how we live and what we do. In other words, as good stewards we live God-centered lives. When Isaiah says “I have set my face like flint,” he is quoting the Messiah and indicating Jesus’ determination and resolve in fulfilling His mission. That may be demanding for us to emulate, but that is the steadfastness the Lord expects from us.
James speaks eloquently to this same fortitude as reflected by how we live out our faith. Living our faith out is at the crux of the message in our Second Reading. We are called to have an active and alive faith that is exemplified by our actions, by what we do to be good stewards of our multiple gifts. Faith as James describes it is impossible to see; it is intangible. However, James makes it clear that what we do, our works, how we live as good stewards, can be seen. It is the real indication of the faith that cannot be seen. As James states so powerfully, “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” The most vigorous way we can display our belief in the promise of Christ is to show our trust in Him by what we do, by how we serve, by how we live out our lives of stewardship. Living faith produces loving action.
In the Gospel from Mark, Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples repeat what they have heard people say — “ John the Baptist…Elijah…one of the prophets,” but it is St. Peter who identifies who the Lord really is — “You are the Christ.” We must never forget that “Christ” means “the anointed,” the “Messiah,” “Christ” is not a name; it is a title. We often criticize and diminish Peter for some of his errors and misjudgments, but in this instance, he has the correct and complete answer, although he completely reverses himself in the following verses. As we have pointed out many times, there is the world of humankind, and there is the world of God. Peter initially speaks from a God-centered angle, but then he immediately changes to a human outlook. This is the same trial we face — to see beyond the obvious and to appreciate the divinity and holiness of the Lord. When we plant a seed, we lose sight of it; it basically dies to our perception. Believing, having faith and trust, allows us to envision the plant and the fruits that the seed will produce. Trust in God allows us to believe, to have faith, and to show our faith with actions.